What to Do If You Don’t Downsize Ahead of Retirement


Ageing, Retirement


February 08, 2024

The housing market is a challenge for everyone right now. Higher mortgage rates make it even harder for younger potential buyers who need to borrow to buy a home. And the lack of homes for sale is a challenge for anyone looking to buy.  If you are nearing retirement and considering downsizing, you may now be rethinking whether that is practical right now, if there aren’t homes in your price range and where you want to live.

If you have decided to stay put for a while longer (or forever) it is so important to make your current home safe and comfortable for your retirement years.

 

The time to do remodeling projects is now, if you can afford it, when you are healthy and can’t imagine being a bit older with a few more aches, or worse. At the top of the list of things to consider is whether you could live comfortably on the first floor of your current home.

 

Ask any contractors who have done work for older clients and they will tell you that they often get a call after there has been an accident or just the wear-and-tear of old age, and there is a need to remodel the downstairs to have a bedroom, and a bathroom that can accommodate a walker and a walk-in shower that doesn’t require stepping into a bathtub. The client wants it done ASAP, but the contractor tells them it will be a minimum of two months, or longer. 

And that can lead to a difficult time: the need to move in with family temporarily, or perhaps a stint in rehab until it is safe and practical to return to a home that requires navigating stairs. 

There are also so many smaller projects with a huge payoff. I respect you may love the rugs throughout your home, but the reality is they can become a serious tripping hazard as you age. Wall-to-wall carpeting removes that risk. Upgrading your lighting is another area to focus on. Raising the washer and dryer a foot or so off the ground will help avoid bending and lifting that can strain your back. Same goes for the dishwasher. Another kitchen project to consider is new lower cabinets with shelves that slide out can make it easier to access pots and pans. If you can find counterspace for heavy appliances, that can be safer than needing to lift them up or down from cabinets. And if your main bathroom doesn’t yet have grab bars at the toilet and the shower, that should be addressed ASAP.

If you want more ideas on how to make your home hospitable to an older you, the National Association of Home Builders has an aging-in-place checklist.

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